Feb. 16, 2008
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Contact: Brian McCann
INDIANAPOLIS - Cedric Jackson scored a game-high 20 points, and J'Nathan Bullock added 11 as the Vikings gave No. 9-ranked Butler everything it could handle Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse before falling, 51-46.
The Vikings (17-11, 10-6 Horizon League) battled back from an 10-point deficit early in the second half to tie the game before the 14:00 mark, but scored only six more points the rest of the game to post their lowest offensive output of the season. Still, CSU gave the Bulldogs (24-2 overall, 13-2 in conference play) a scare, trailing by only by four points with just over three minutes left.
Down eight at the half, the Vikings' deficit hit 10 points just 22 seconds into the second stanza on a Matt Howard reverse layup. Over the next five minutes, CSU battled back to tie the game at 40. After the Vikings and BU traded three-pointers, Bullock nailed another three to cut Butler's lead to seven at the 18:23 mark. D'Aundray Brown cut into the lead even further with a short jumper in the lane 36 seconds later. Jackson made it a two-point contest two minutes later, at 38-36, connecting on layup and a free throw following a Julian Betko foul on the shot. Bullock completed the comeback with 14:31 left in the game with a jumper in the lane, tying the game at 40. From there, both teams struggled to put points on the board. CSU finished the rest of the game shooting just 3-of-12 from the field, while Butler managed a just-barely better 4-of-13 to clinch first and second-round byes in next week's conference tournament.
"They had every chance to put us away and they couldn't do it," said CSU head coach Gary Waters. "We had our chance to get back in it, and put them away and we couldn't do it. This was a game that either team could have easily won."
The Vikings finished the game shooting 31 percent from the field (15-48), but the Buldogs shot 40.5 percent (17-42). CSU kept its league-leading rebounding margin intact, out-boarding BU, 35-31, but also committed four more turnovers than Butler.
The Vikings made a statement early, overcoming the hometown crowd to carry a slim lead through the game's first six minutes until Butler's Matt Howard tied the game at nine with a pair of free throws. CSU responded with a Joe Davis jumper on its next possession to go up a basket, but Butler got a spark of the bench from sharpshooter A.J. Graves with a pair of three-pointers to put the Bulldogs up, 15-11.
Graves' baskets were big, said Waters.
"He should have never gotten those two off," said the coach, speaking of CSU's attention to Butler's outside shooters heading into the game. "We let him get those off, and they were big."
The Vikings pulled back to within a bucket at 9:47 on a D'Aundray Brown layup. It would be CSU's last field goal until the two-minute mark, a span that included an 0-6 performance from the field and four turnovers. While CSU struggled offensively, Butler found their stroke, finishing the half with the eight-point lead on 10-19 shooting, including a trio of threes from Graves.
Butler was led by Howard, who finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. Graves finished with 15 points.
The Vikings return home to close the regular season home schedule with games against Milwaukee on Wednesday (Feb. 20) and Marist on Saturday (Feb. 23).